Updated April 3, 2020
This is an uncertain time for all of us, and the Food Bank is doing our part to help ensure the health, safety, and food security of our communities. We’re focused on the needs of our partners and the people we serve, as guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to come. We’re incredibly thankful for the outreach from our community wanting to support these efforts!
We also want to share some of the precautions we’re undertaking specific to COVID-19, on top of our standard, daily, safety and hygiene processes because of the work we do with food and distribution. We don’t yet know the long term impact COVID-19 will have, but as always, we are here for the long haul. The Food Bank is committed to serving those in need, and we’re very thankful for the trust that’s placed in us.
The Food Bank Is Still Open – And We’re Here For The Long Haul
Note: The Food Bank, our Partner Agencies, and volunteers are exempt from Governor Cooper’s Stay at Home Order and may continue to operate and serve. Continuing to follow the CDC’s guidance for best practices is necessary. Continue to practice physical distancing, and remain at home if you are not feeling well.
On top of our normal operations serving the community, the Food Bank has distributed 8,817 family-sized boxes, containing 20 meals per box, in response to the COVID-19 crisis (as of April 3). Of these boxes, 3,450 have been packed with love by small groups of volunteers, and the rest are purchased food that comes pre-packaged and ready to go. This helps us ensure we follow CDC guidance when it comes to volunteer health and safety. These boxes are what we’re hearing are most helpful to the community right now, providing more meals to sustain people during these uncertain times. Through coordinated efforts, these boxes have gone to our network of disaster relief partner agencies, some school districts, and New Hanover County Meals on Wheels.
We’re supporting and stocking our partner agencies on the front lines (the pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters who serve people) and determining the best way to serve our most vulnerable friends and neighbors: senior citizens, and children and their families who are losing the daily school meals they rely on due to school closures. We know that there is an impact for people losing wages and business and want to ensure we’re prepared to serve people who previously have not needed Food Bank support. Insights from 2008’s Great Recession show that folks in the service industry (including hospitality) may be disproportionately impacted, and there will likely be an increase in the number of children facing hunger and poverty, too.
We’re continuing to work with partners across our service-area to find innovative ways to serve our most vulnerable friends and neighbors. We’ve connected with local vendors to start the Kids Summer Meals program (officially called Summer Food Service Program, or SFSP) early this year. So far, sites have been approved in Wayne, Pitt, Person, Durham, and Vance counties. We’ve changed our focus right now to dry goods and shelf-stable items that will ensure people have food accessible to them for an extended period of time. This will help families keep pantry visits to a minimum. In addition, we’ve partnered with Meals on Wheels of Chapel Hill Carrboro to initially provide more shelf stable food to seniors who are unable to leave their homes, and we’re looking for opportunities to expand that type of outreach.
Anyone in our 34-county service area who needs help with food can visit our Food Finder page to look up local members of our partner agency network or browse this list of locations offering grab-and-go meals for kids. (Live outside our service area? Find your local food bank here.)
How You Can Help the Food Bank Meet The Increased Need
As we shift our inventory to be as nimble as possible to meet the ever-changing need, funds are the resource we need most. They allow us to make purchases in bulk, and tailor our operation as needed in the coming days and weeks. The Food Bank is committed to serving those in need, and we’re very thankful for the trust that’s placed in us.
Want to mobilize your neighborhood, church group, or other circle of friends? Holding a Virtual Food Drive is a great way to help – while practicing social distancing.
And of course, the Food Bank greatly relies on our volunteers, especially in times of crisis. If you are a healthy adult and want to volunteer, you can self-schedule a shift at foodbankcenc.org/volunteer
Extra Health Precautions To Protect Volunteers
Current volunteer sessions are being kept much smaller than traditional volunteer groups. This is to best accommodate social distancing while still packing vital food resources, in accordance with guidelines around large groups. We are also limiting volunteering to ages 18-60 at this time, to best protect vulnerable populations. If you sign up and can no longer volunteer, please let our team know so they can fill the empty slot. You can check for any possible changes in your email or this page before coming in for your volunteer session. With your support we can help make sure no one goes hungry during this uncertain time.
If you are feeling sick, or displaying any symptoms of illness, please stay home. It is true that we rely on volunteer power to get the job done, but we need you to be healthy and operating at 100% to make that happen! Please do not put yourself or anyone else at risk by coming to volunteer when sick. If you are displaying signs of illness while on site at the Food Bank, one of our team members will ask you to return home.
All volunteers must wash their hands upon entering the Food Bank, before starting a project. Team members will be on site to direct you to the restrooms. Best practice from the CDC—whether at you’re at the Food Bank or not—wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
Important Notes On Food Safety And Hygiene
Our staff, Partner Agencies, and volunteers are of the utmost importance to our operation and ability to serve, so we are taking extra steps to ensure their safety.
For your awareness and reassurance, we want to share some of the Food Bank’s standard, routine practices around food safety and hygiene: the Food Bank has regular food safety inspections from independent entities (like NCDA, USDA, AIB, and Feeding America) and works to maintain the highest level of cleanliness and sanitation for the safety of the food we provide to our partner agencies, as well as those who enter our facilities to support our work.
We thank you for all your do for the Food Bank and the communities we have the privilege to support and empower. Please take care of yourselves and your family and follow the CDC for guidelines and updates: cdc.gov/COVID19